Another thing that stands the test of time is a father and mother’s love for their children.
Sure, there are always the rare unfortunate exceptions, the flies in the ointment, the porcupines among the pangolins.
But for the most part, parents love their children and want to help them thrive.
And the following books are five of the best classic novels that reflect that kind of selfless, encouraging parental love…
Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
“To see each of his ugly, selfish motives changed into a good and generous one by the simplicity of a child was a singular experience.” — Little Lord Fauntleroy
Little Lord Fauntleroy is a lesser-known classic, a hidden treasure of a book about a fatherless boy whose selfish, grumpy, aristocratic grandfather chooses to be his heir after his father and uncle (said grandfather’s sons) die.
The new Lord Fauntleroy (given name: Cedric Errol) is only five years old, the cheerful, loving child of an American mother who was cast off by his grandfather because she wasn’t from the British aristocratic class.
Even when Cedric’s mother agrees to move to England so Cedric’s grandfather can raise his heir, she never hints at the animosity Grandfather has toward her. Instead, she teaches her son to see the good in everyone, and over time, Cedric’s innocent, trusting nature changes the grumpy old curmudgeon.
But just when everything seems to be on the up-and-up, a startling revelation threatens to take everything away from Cedric and his grandfather, especially their relationship with one another.
Silas Marner by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
“In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs…and the hand may be a little child’s.” — Silas Marner
Silas Marner is a book close to my heart because it’s not the story of a biological parent-child duo, but an adoptive father-daughter pair.
Adoption is both sad and beautiful — a necessary backup in a broken world. Ideally children would all grow up in loving homes with their biological parents, but when that isn’t possible, good adoptive parents give kids a second chance to be loved into healthy adulthood.
And Silas Marner is about such an adoptive parent, a solitary man who has been hurt by the world and so withdraws into himself and his money…until an accident brings a golden-haired toddler into his life.
Silas Marner (the eponymous character) decides to take in the baby, Eppie, even though he has no idea where she comes from or who her biological parents are.
Over time, Eppie’s presence changes Marner’s life, and he transforms from an antisocial loner to a respected and loved member of the community. But when Eppie is a teen, a startling revelation (there we go with startling revelations again!) about her past threatens to tear the father and daughter apart…
And of course you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next 😉
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“Right. But do you think I could face my children otherwise? You know what’s going to happen as well as I do…and I hope and pray I can get [my children] through it without bitterness” — To Kill a Mockingbird
Although To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t ostensibly about parenting, parenting IS one of the subtler themes that resonates throughout the entire book. For example: In a conversation with his brother, lawyer and single father Atticus Finch even says that he is doing what he’s doing (defending an innocent man presumed guilty) for his children’s sake — in order to set a good moral example for them.
If you haven’t heard of To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s a controversial story set in Alabama during the Great Depression. There are two storylines:
The main story involves a wrongful accusation case that lawyer Atticus takes up, which stirs up racial tensions in the small community.
A supplemental storyline involves a reclusive neighbor who leaves small gifts for Atticus’ young children, Scout and Jem, in a knothole in a tree…a neighbor who performs a great act of courage near the end of the book.
Most of the story is told from the point of view of Scout, Atticus’ six year old daughter. Scout describes her adventures with her brother and a local boy named Dill, their attempts to draw out the mysterious Boo, her experiences at school and around the neighborhood.
Her father Atticus rarely shows up in her tales of her escapades.
And yet, Atticus’ protection, love, and wisdom are always there in the background, largely unnoticed by the children, but there when most needed, just like the role many parents play in their children’s lives.
Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
“What if I pretended this cottage were mine? I could sort of adopt it. Who would know? Who would care?” — Mandy
Aside from being an award-winning actress and the star of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews Edwards (known by her stage name Julie Andrews) was also a writer. And a pretty good one, at that.
In Mandy, Andrews tells the story of a ten-year-old orphan who discovers a little deserted cottage in the woods outside her orphanage. Mandy sneaks over to the cottage every chance she gets, secretly cleaning it up and making it hers.
But one day, while she is at the cottage, Mandy falls ill and no one knows where she is…no one except a friend who has been secretly watching over her.
Hold on, wait. You may be wondering “what does this have to do with parenting?” If you’re an astute reader, you may have guessed. If not, read the book (even if you have guessed, I recommend that you give this book a read, anyway. It will warm the cockles of your heart).
For anyone who longs for home, or appreciates the warmth and comfort of a family, this book will resonate.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
“If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.” — A Little Princess
The word “princess” sometimes has a controversial ring to it, in certain circles. But in the eyes of loving parents, their little girl always feels like a princess — a beautiful gift to protect and care for.
But a real princess isn’t just there to look pretty and be pampered. In real life, the best princesses are also leaders and servants, setting a good example for their people, and caring for those who need help.
In A Little Princess, main character Sara Carew is a princess in all but the literal sense. The heiress and only daughter of a wealthy father, Sara is sent to a boarding school in England while her father makes his fortune in India.
At first, Sara is feted and envied by the headmistress and the other girls. But when her father loses his wealth and dies, Sara’s fortunes change in an instant. Her position and possessions are taken from her and she’s turned into a servant.
But the indomitable Sara chooses to be a princess in her heart even if she is no longer treated as one outwardly. Her kindness endears her to several interesting characters in the book, and at the end, there’s a big twist (twists again!) that changes Sara’s life… (again, you’ll have to read it to find out what the twist is)
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